Welcome to the Sixties! The Ambassador Theatre Group return once again to The Edinburgh Playhouse with one of their audience favourites. Hairspray is filled with fabulous costumes and catchy songs that the audience can still be heard humming long after the curtain has fallen, but the show still brings an important message along with the entertainment.
In these times where change and equality are still major issues, the story still holds significance and the cast don’t hold back on voicing it loud and proud. They do a fantastic job of bringing history and the joy of the Sixties to life. We follow Tracy Turnblad in 1960’s Baltimore as she strives to become a dancer on her favourite tv show, The Corny Collins Show. Tracy is faced with prejudice when she turns up to the audition because she is bigger but still manages to persevere and win a spot on the show. As she manages to get live on the air with help from her new friend Seaweed she becomes an overnight star, she then works with her new black friends to convince the tv show to integrate so that they can all dance together. As an overweight girl fighting for integration Tracy risks her reputation and faces some serious backlash from prejudice people of the era. With her friends by her side she still fights for what she thinks its right because in Tracy’s opinion, ‘Every day should be Negro day.’
Rebecca Mendoza is perfect as the leading lady, Tracy Turnblad. She embodies Tracy from the tips of her toes to the top of her perm and her powerful voice is a wonderful fit for the iconic character. Annalise Liard-Bailey is just as eye-catching and deserves an honourable mention, her performance of Tracy’s best friend Penny Pingleton is both perfectly cartoonish and adorably dorky. Matt Rixon as Edna Turnblad and Norman Pace as Wilbur Turnblad do a glorious job as Tracy’s loving and supporting parents and can be seen performing some hilarious improv during their duet, You’reTimeless To Me. Brenda Edward’s powerful voice is very fitting for the glorious Motorouth Maybelle and her stage children certainly do her proud. Layton Williams playing Seaweed can be seen doing some very impressive back flips while Monifa James playing Little Inez is just adorable.
The cast are full of characters that are larger than life and with help from the fabulous costumes and quirky sets they succeed fully at bringing this beloved musical to life. Its especially nice to see the band being included in some of the scenes who can be seen dressed in their Sixties finest. The dancers do the choreography complete justice and the cast sing with such conviction and energy that they have the audience literally on their feet by the time they reach the finale.
For a production that has made an appearance at the Playhouse only a couple of years prior, it is impressive that the show still remains so fresh. The fact that John Waters original 1988 film was a story based on true events makes it even more special and for it to be brought to the stage shows how passionate people are about it. The way the characters fight for their right to dance and to just be themselves would make the likes of Rosa Parks proud. Unfortunately, we still live in a world where prejudice exists and where people are forever conscious about their body image. Its shows like Hairspray that help make a difference and this company certainly hit the nail on the head. A hilariously, fabulous show that really shows what it means to go big or go home!
Guest Reviewer: Ashleigh More